New official smoking figures show progress, but Government cannot be complacent
New figures out today show that smoking rates fell to 13.3% across the UK in 2021 and to 13.0% in England. This is down from 14.0% across the UK in 2020 and 13.8% in England. ONS estimates there are currently 6.6 million smokers in the UK.1
However, analysis, reported in the Government’s independent review of tobacco policy,2 has shown that without speeding progress the Government will miss their ambition for England to be ‘smokefree’ by 2030 defined as fewer than 5% of the population smoking. There are also concerns that progress may have slowed in 2022 with University College London’s long running study of smoker’s behaviour finding no declines in rates of smoking through this year with data running until October 2022.3
Hazel Cheeseman, Deputy Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said:
“Smoking is still the biggest cause of preventable illness and death so the progress shown today is great news. But Government must not be complacent. They first promised to publish a new Tobacco Control Plan for England in 2021 but we still have seen no plan for how they will meet that goal. Without one we will not meet the vision of being smokefree by 2030.”
Prof Jamie Brown, Director, Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, University College London, said:
“Today’s figures are good news but our own research indicates that the long-term decline in smoking may be stalling. Our success in bringing rates down to some of the lowest levels in Europe was our consistent innovation in policies to tackle smoking. A new and bold approach is urgently required to get us back on track and meet the Government’s ambition to be smokefree.”
ASH, along with APPG on Smoking and Health,4 and many other leading charities, have backed recommendations made in the Independent Khan Review,2 including for a levy on tobacco companies to pay for the services needed to help people to quit and prevent uptake among young people. Organisations have also called for a consultation on raising the age of sale from 18 to 21.
Notes to the Editor
Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: www.ash.org.uk/about-ash. ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.
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https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/bulletins/adultsmokinghabitsingreatbritain/2021 Note that ONS have revised previously published estimates for smoking rates in 2020 to reflect the impact of changed survey method as a result of the pandemic. In March 2020 the survey switched from a mix of face-to-face interviews and telephone interviews to telephone only. People are less likely to report they smoke when asked over the telephone and ONS have adjusted their estimates to reflect this.